Tennis Prose



John McEnroe’s Heart Of Gold

By Scoop Malinowski

Chris Lewis shared this wonderful story about the heart of gold side of John McEnroe’s character that is often overshadowed by his tennis artistry and ferocious will to win…

(By the way, Lewis played McEnroe in the 1983 Wimbledon final, a 62 62 62 defeat.)

In 2004 I was living in New Zealand, and a widely promoted exhibition match between John McEnroe and Pat Cash was due to take place at Auckland’s main tennis venue, the ASB Centre. A couple of months prior to the event, I was asked by a Charitable Organization I was associated with whether I could contact John with a request on their behalf.

The primary objective of this organization was to help young children with disabilities forge a future career for themselves. In this particular case, they were looking to help a young, deaf teenager to pursue a career in journalism. The boy, who was also an avid tennis fan, had told them that conducting an interview with McEnroe would be like a dream come true. They asked me if I would contact John with a view to setting this up. I got hold of John in New York, and he said he’d do his best to make it happen on the morning after the exhibition.

Two months later, I’m with John and Pat in the locker room after a hugely successful evening exhibition match in front of a packed stadium. It’s already late, and John and Pat are making plans for a dinner and a visit to one of Auckland’s clubs – in other words, it was going to be a very long night for the two of them.

Now, John’s schedule was very tight. He had a flight booked back to the US for early afternoon, and the 30-minute interview with the boy was arranged for 8:30 am in the hotel lobby. I arrived at the hotel thirty minutes before the interview was due to begin, and an extremely nervous teenager was waiting for his childhood hero. At exactly 8:30, after his big night out, John arrived, and stayed for a full hour-long conversation with his teenage interviewer – more than fulfilling the realization of that young boy’s dream. If ever there was a class act, it was McEnroe that morning!

(McEnroe acrylic painting by Sarasota, FL based artist Karin Billings.)

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